A two part research study has been completed on the topic of compression after impact (CAI) of thin facesheet honeycomb core sandwich panels. The research has focused on both experiments and analysis in an effort to establish and validate a new understanding of the damage tolerance of these materials. Part one, the subject of the current paper, is focused on the experimental testing. Of interest are sandwich panels, with aerospace applications, which consist of very thin, woven S2-fiberglass (with MTM45-1 epoxy) facesheets adhered to a Nomex honeycomb core. Two sets of specimens, which were identical with the exception of the density of the honeycomb core, were tested. Static indentation and low velocity impact using a drop tower are used to study damage formation in these materials. A series of highly instrumented CAI tests was then completed. New techniques used to observe CAI response and failure include high speed video photography, as well as digital image correlation (DIC) for full-field deformation measurement. Two CAI failure modes, indentation propagation, and crack propagation, were observed. From the results, it can be concluded that the CAI failure mode of these panels depends solely on the honeycomb core density.